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Armchair theories on why POE2 didn't sell super well

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1 hour ago, Bleak said:

In that particular example of attack/spell resolution, it's what I, at least, consider as a type of good complexity, because each way of attacking is mechanically unique. Yes, one will also need to learn how saves work and read the description of each specific spell carefully, but I don't think it's that big of a hurdle so that it makes players look up the rules after they familiarize themselves with it. I don't think systemic is always a good thing - sometimes it comes at the price of variety.

And yet we are talking about sales numbers and low barriers to entry and accessibility. If you want people to grasp a ruleset quickly then a systemic approach is mandatory. Having to study and memorize a lot of exceptions is what will put off a significant amount of non-hardcore-players who don't want to get a Master's degree in that specific ruleset or to write a thesis about the unique spell effects of spell XY (I include PoE/Deadfire here as well). In the end it doesn't really matter how the spell effects goes through what attack resolution, if that's a unique mechanic or not . What matters is if it feels nice to cast it. For example Pull of Eora is a unique spell effect but it uses the same attack resolution. It's more interesting than Fireball which uses the same attack resolution but is fairly boring. So I would argue the uniqueness or joy of spells should come with their effects and impact on the game world and not how they are applied mechanically.

The advantage of a universal attack resolution: nobody needs to look the hit mechanics up each time they want to cast a spell.

I've played my fair share of P&P during school and university and I can only say that most players hated it if you had to reach for the rulebook all the time. A supernerd who could recite every rule was very welcome, even if he (usually a he) didn't contribute much else and fell asleep at some point because all the "role-playing" bored him...

There always were some hardcore-nerds who loved to take a deep dive into the depths of exceptions and special rules - but most don't. Also those experts often really like the game to stay that way. They will usually argue that a more systemic (doesn't mean simplistic!) ruleset will "dumb down" the game or make it less interesting. I guess a part of that is that they invested a huge amount of time and brain schmalz to learn all that stuff. What's that worth if everybody suddenly can grasp or even decuct the rules quickly? Those players are gatekeeping.

At the same time they only buy one copy like everybody else...

D&D games most certainly don't sell well because the mechanics are so awesome, interesting or unique. Simulationisticly and also in terms of convenience they are bad. They manage to be complicated and at the same time don't really simulate anything very well. That's ok because they are a result of organic growth over long years with massive legacy problems (thanks to conservative and vocal hardcore-nerds) - and it doesn't matter much because the P&P audience is used to it and the whole other stuff around the rules is -whike at times a bit chaotic and silly - very rich and attractive and most players know it - they even grew up with it. Nostalgia, custom and popularity are more important than a slick, high quality ruleset when it comes to commercial success. 

A clear advantage of every D&D licensed game. 

Another thing: I read that Stardew Valley sold 10 Million times now. After release for PC only it sold 1 million copies (which is pretty awesome for such a game). Only after the game was ported to consoles and more importantly mobiles (iOS and Android) it surged again and went for the 10 million mark. 

Imagine a Deadfire version for mobiles... :) What changes would it have to go through in order to make it playable and fun on mobile devices? I mean if we look forward to a possible third installment? RTwP seems to be a pain on small screens I reckon?

 

 

Edited by Boeroer
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2 hours ago, Boeroer said:

Another thing: I read that Stardew Valley sold 10 Million times now. After release for PC only it sold 1 million copies (which is pretty awesome for such a game). Only after the game was ported to consoles and more importantly mobiles (iOS and Android) it surged again and went for the 10 million mark. 

Great success story by the way.
I even bought it myself and liked it.


On another topic, BG2 is also more casual friendly than PoE, even with its trap builds.
Some battles are about as tactical as PoE, but most battles are close Hack & Slash (if you go Fighter-heavy parties). Some part of it is just piling Shiny Sword like Diablo 2 (even if Magical items felt more than a bunch of stats).

Even if BG2 is not exactly for Casual Gamers, it was certainly closer to it than PoE 1&2. 

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At the same time players complained that "mundane" classes in BG/BG2 had not much to do besides auto-attacking and felt less interesting than mages etc. Which is true. On the other hand that means a hell lot more micromanagemet if everybody in the party can use impactful active abilites - this can make the game more complicated and might push more casual gamers away. 

Edited by Boeroer

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I do not think that the rule system was the reason why DF sold bad compared to PoE1. If both games had a problem with that I could argue that they were meant to be spiritual successors of the IE games but they were not DnD and some people were upset by this.

I do not think that the system of DF is worse than PoE. Both had stuff that may be hard to understand for new players. (PoE: Everything where the descriptions says it changes speed changes only recovery time, except dex. DF: Double inversion, a bonus of +20% and a penalty of -20% does not result in zero effect.). But both games are much easier to understand than P:K. But I do not think that PoE/DF are too simple or "dumbed down" as can be seen by the endless discussions about game mechanics in this forum.

some examples:

attack PoE, DF: acc + 1d100 - defense = miss/graze/hit/crit

attack P:K: melee or ranged? normal, touch attack or flat footed? Which types of defense are used against which types of attacks? (dodge, armor, natural, . . .)

buffs/debuffs DF: passive abilities stack (right side of skill tree,), active abilities do not stack if they influence the same thing

PK: You need to learn for each effect what type of effect it is (morale, luck, enhencement, . . .) Only stuff from different types stack.

To be fair, all games have exceptions that can make it hard to understand for the player.

-----------

OK, game mechanics wise the only terrible thing in DF is ship to ship combat. I think it is not complex, not intuitive and most importently not fun. I think Josh wanted to remove it but his boss wanted it in (not 100% sure). Maybe that is a reason.

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Guest Wullack

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Edited by Wullack

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Why didn't those players (must have been more than 500K to explain the sales drop) voice their disappointment with PoE's bugs but instead PoE had good reviews, hm?

Concerning the free Deadfire Pack: ever heard the phrase "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth"? I mean it would be nice if some of the remaining bugs were fixed, but the whole pack was for free and none of the bugs are game breaking. Also not all items are bugged. Only some of them (Spike Flinger, Cap, Fulvano's Blunderbuss). Hard to believe that those issues lead to such a sales drop without any hint in reviews.

 

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Guest Wullack

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Edited by Wullack

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7 hours ago, Wullack said:

Most people don't write reviews or anything for that matter. What you see here or on social media is only a small subset of the players. Most people just move on to a different game.

Most people participate in surveys. And yet surveys can be representative. It's safe to say that if a game gets good reviews from both users and critics the disappointment can't be big enough to explain such a massive sales drop. What you describe can be the source of disappontmet for sure. But in this case: not on such a large scale. Because if the buggyness of PoE or especially the free Deadfire DLC was one of the core reasons why people didn't buy Deadfire then it would have found its way into reviews and criticism. 

7 hours ago, Wullack said:

As for the not game breaking bugs: That seems to be the standard phrase around here. A skill doesn't work? No problem, not game breaking. An item is useless? No problem, not game breaking!

This is not the standard phrase around here. You can read a lot about bugs here in the forums and long time players complaining about them. But on the other hand we also did a lot of testing and bug reporting over the years (even with useful hints and theories why this or that bug might occur). So instead of just grouching around we helped to find and fix those. So when somebody of those people says a bug isn't game breaking it means exactly that. Nothing more and nothing less. A game breaking bug is the source of much bigger disappointment than an item that's bugged.  Sure it can be annoying if an item doesn't work properly (ask me about my feelings about Essence Interrupter destroying loot) - but it's surely less annoying as if your game crashed all the time or your playthrough gets bricked by some faulty quest or something along those lines. Nobody said that a bug is not a problem. So be sincere and don't imply anybody did. It's a difference to say "Those bugs aren't game breaking and thus don't have that much impact on the overall reception of the game" or to say "Those bugs aren't game breaking and thus: no problem!". 

7 hours ago, Wullack said:

Thing is: It doesn't matter if it's game breaking or not.

Of course it matters.
The difference is that game breaking bugs that don't get fixed indeed tend to influence reviews and critics and thus show a huge disappointment in the game and teh developer as you describe it. So big that players might not want to touch the sequel.  A counterexample to your theory: Pathfinder Kingmaker was way more buggy than Deadfire at release and had some nasty, game breaking bugs. The reviews were full of rants about those. Steam user reviews were not good at that time. As soon as Owlcat fixed those game breaking bugs the reviews got up very quickly - and the game was a success despite bad and then mediocre reviews due to bugs. The many small bugs that remained in that game didn't seem to bother players that much then. At least not enough to let the game - and yet you could see the impact of game breaking bugs in the reviews.

7 hours ago, Wullack said:

Combine that with extremely long loading times, balance patches which rendered strong characters weaker and introduced new bugs, graphical glitches introduced in 3.7 and the game isn't exactly a great advertisement for the next installment.

Those things surely aren't a great advertisement. But do they have such a big impact that they put nearly a million players off of buying Deadfire? If so - I repeat - you would see some sign of it in media, reviews, critics (like with Pathfinder). There's no discussion that those things can put some players off, but we are looking at a large, large scale: Can those things disappoint hundrets of thousands of players so that the sequal sells less than half the copies of the original game? Without anybody (not even Obsidian themselves who surely receive and monitor those things more closely than we are) seeing any indication in revews, refunds, compaints, critis etc. before? I seriously doubt it. 

7 hours ago, Wullack said:

Concerning the gift horse:

I was trying to make the point that most players won't get exceptionally angry about something buggy they got for free as if they had paid for it. At least if they are not suffering from permanent entitlement.

7 hours ago, Wullack said:

But in the end it doesn't matter if Deadfire sold well or not. They got bought by MS and money shouldn't be an issue anymore. :)

Of course it matters. It matters for those who would like to see a PoE 3. If Obsidian can't show Microsoft why Deadfire tanked and how they want to prevent that for a future installment then Microsoft will not throw any money at it. Even Josh Sawyer said that they can't make a third part (in Infinity-Engine fashion at least) as long as they can't explain the sales drop of Deadfire. Too risky. Microsoft has money, but they don't want to burn it I'm sure. 

Edited by Boeroer

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Guest Wullack

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Edited by Wullack

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Ah, the nihilistic take...

It matters for people (players and devs alike) who liked the two games. That's why this thread exists in the first place. We wonder how this happened and are curious how this might be explained.

What you said has nothing do with this simple fact. 

Just because it doesn't matter to you or the owners of Obsidian (what I highly doubt - I truly believe they want to understand what happened) or guys at Microsoft doesn't mean that it doesn't matter at all. 

And because it matters to some people here we discuss it. If it doesn't matter to you: why are you participating in the first place?

 

Edited by Boeroer
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Yeah, you can always make the claim that nothing matters, and in a sense that is correct: absolutely everything really is meaningless. However, on a human level, we care about things a great deal, and the fact that you're even talking about an issue sort of proves that you care about it. So the nihilistic argument is not really an argument.

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Guest Wullack

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Edited by Wullack

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That's not really a cogent argument. They needed to deliver with Deadfire, too. They didn't, which is why they're no longer independent.

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Guest Wullack

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Edited by Wullack

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Strong "I'll take 'Change of topic' for $500, Alex" vibes...


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Since I just finished up Poe1 after not playing it for about 3 years.. my new thought is that maybe it has to do with Poe1 being fairly convoluted and how it often makes you feel like you've messed up or made the wrong decision. (or you feel like you made the right decision but the outcome isn't what you expected or wanted.)  Even though I still remembered most major plotlines and decisions I still found myself saying "huh? what? why?" and reloading quite a lot just because the dialogue choices sometimes weren't exactly clear. Instead of feeling like I was roleplaying a characters response I often felt like I was playing a guessing game or in some situations, like I was trying to solve a dialogue tree puzzle just to get the response I want.  Something like that could easily put people off from wanting to play a part 2. 

Or maybe it just had to do with lack of advertising. 😛 ( I honestly don't remember seeing Poe2 advertised anywhere.)

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Guest Wullack

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Edited by Wullack

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Boereor didn't change the subject - you misread his argument. He pointed out that the reviews - both user and critical - did not reflect dissatisfaction with widespread bugs. Generally speaking, gamers are pretty vocal about issues like bugs making it hard for them to enjoy a game - but if we have no evidence that people were complaining about bugs, then it's unlikely that the remaining bugs in the first game turned people off from buying Deadfire. Beyond that, saying "it's because there are bugs that never got fixed" ignores several counterarguments - the fact that Obsidian had a reputation and gentle teasing for their history of games with lots of bugs, the fact that Pathfinder: Kingmaker sold well despite just as many, if not more bugs that were widely reported on and criticized, and the fact that Bethesda is still in business.

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@Wullack: But you did change the topic. You did not even make the attempt to answer my question concerning the source of your supposed information. Care to elaborate on that? You can't just make very strong claims without backing them up.

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15 hours ago, Wullack said:

You should know, right, being an expert in that discipline. My first comment was about the plethora of bugs in the game. Your response was about reviews and me being ungrateful.

You should work on your reading comprehension. I didn't change the subject but brought in the reviews as a counterargument - which was precisely aimed at your "bugs lead to massive sales drop" theory. No change of subject whatsoever. I also never said that you were ungrateful. If you should quote me if I wrote that. I said that if you get something for free you will be less likely to get angry if it doesn't work as expected then if you had to pay for it - which was also aimed at your "bugs" theory - especially because you brought up the Deadfire Pack as an example for bugs that would make hundreds of thousands of players so angry that they would skip Deadfire.

You should be able to comprehend that. At least if you are not trying to misinterpret me on purpose.

You changed the subject by deviating into the realms of "It all doesn't matter because Microsoft bought them".  

This is plain obvious. 

14 hours ago, PantherX14 said:

Boereor didn't change the subject - you misread his argument. He pointed out that the reviews - both user and critical - did not reflect dissatisfaction with widespread bugs. Generally speaking, gamers are pretty vocal about issues like bugs making it hard for them to enjoy a game - but if we have no evidence that people were complaining about bugs, then it's unlikely that the remaining bugs in the first game turned people off from buying Deadfire. Beyond that, saying "it's because there are bugs that never got fixed" ignores several counterarguments - the fact that Obsidian had a reputation and gentle teasing for their history of games with lots of bugs, the fact that Pathfinder: Kingmaker sold well despite just as many, if not more bugs that were widely reported on and criticized, and the fact that Bethesda is still in business.

Thank you. Exactly my point - neatly summarized.

15 hours ago, Wullack said:

But don't worry, maybe you'll get your 3rd part after all. I've heard the console launch is a major success, apart from the corrupted saves, tons of other bugs and questionable design decisions like the combat log not visible in combat. I'm sure, the reviews are great.

Sarcasm is uncalled for. I am well aware that the console port has massive issues atm. Those may indeed lead to frustration and bad sales numbers. Or it may not. Nobody knows yet. But I'm not denying that it may happen. However - we were speaking about the poor performance in the past - on PC. The release on console has nothing to do with that. Especially not since it just started and nobody here has any numbers.

We could talk about the combined sales numbers of PC and consoles after some months. That might be interesting. And then bad porting might indeed be a factor for disappointing sales numbers. But in this thread it is not relevant. It's just another smoke screen.   

Edited by Boeroer
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some questions:

- Did MS buy Obsidian before or after the sale numbers for DF were known?

- Did DF make enough money to cover the production costs?

- Is Obsidian making a new game at the moment, after making TOW?

- Does Obsidian make any money with the PnP game? It´s just a rule set. Or was it just a hobby of Josh to invent new PnP stuff.

- Is any big RPG in developement at the moment except BG3?

I hope there will be a PoE3 or another game in tis universe. PoE1+2 had good reviews and they released a console version 2 years after PC release even though sales were not as good as expected. They just need to find out what was the problem (this thread has tons of ideas but no answer so far) and stick to the stuff that people liked.

Edited by Madscientist

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21 minutes ago, Madscientist said:

I hope there will be a PoE3 or another game in tis universe. PoE1+2 had good reviews and they released a console version 2 years after PC release even though sales were not as good as expected. They just need to find out what was the problem (this thread has tons of ideas but no answer so far) and stick to the stuff that people liked.

There is no answer. Or, rather, there is an answer but it's impossible to find out what it is. There are two simple reasons for this: #1, the number of possible variables affecting the sales of Deadfire is simply too large, and #2, you cannot run new iterations with reality. To illustrate: even if somebody comes up with a decent-sounding explanation concerning just a small number variables A, B, C and D (#1), we still cannot test this theory, because there is no way of knowing what would have happened if a different approach had been taken concerning said variables A, B, C and D (#2).

So, we won't ever know. Obsidian won't ever know, either. Theories can range from the ridiculous (malignant astrological influence from Mars) to the plausible (the nostalgia effect wearing off, and other rather good theories presented in this thread, for instance), but ultimately we will not know.

The best Obsidian can do is decide upon what the most plausible theories and reasons are, make some changes based on that, and then hope for the best. But this, again, is more complicated than it sounds: supposing that there will be a successor to Deadfire, that game will be released into a different market from the one that Deadfire was released into.

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3 hours ago, Madscientist said:

some questions:

- Did MS buy Obsidian before or after the sale numbers for DF were known?

- Did DF make enough money to cover the production costs?

- Is Obsidian making a new game at the moment, after making TOW?

- Does Obsidian make any money with the PnP game? It´s just a rule set. Or was it just a hobby of Josh to invent new PnP stuff.

- Is any big RPG in developement at the moment except BG3?

I hope there will be a PoE3 or another game in tis universe. PoE1+2 had good reviews and they released a console version 2 years after PC release even though sales were not as good as expected. They just need to find out what was the problem (this thread has tons of ideas but no answer so far) and stick to the stuff that people liked.

1. After. No idea if related or not.

2. Afaik it did. First of all it got crowdfunded (not to 100% though) so there was less risk. And Josh once said that while Deadfire did disappoint them it was still "ok". A bit vague though.

3. Several. It seems they are producing more stuff than ever. At least if you look at the number of employees and the job offers that are currently online. Also the development of several projects was confirmed (with code names).

4. Not yet. You can't buy it, the alpha rules are for free. It's a pet project of Josh. Its rules are also vastly different from the PC games' (for example it's classless). I don't know if they ever planned to earn money with it. 

5. I guess so. As I said Obsidian is bigger than before (in terms of employee count) and has several games in the pipeline. Microsoft also bought some other RPG studios and I guess they want some big RPGs for the Xbox (most likely in the fashion of TOW though since that's console friendly).

As Gromnir already said: isometric party based RPG is a niche. I wouldn't expect too much from Microsoft in that regard. But maybe they'll surprise us. A small yet neat game can still be very profitable. Doesn't need to be expensive to sell millions of copies (see Slay the Spire, Reigns, Stardew Valley, Battle Brothers etc.).

Edited by Boeroer

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14 hours ago, vyvexthorne said:

Since I just finished up Poe1 after not playing it for about 3 years.. my new thought is that maybe it has to do with Poe1 being fairly convoluted and how it often makes you feel like you've messed up or made the wrong decision. (or you feel like you made the right decision but the outcome isn't what you expected or wanted.)  Even though I still remembered most major plotlines and decisions I still found myself saying "huh? what? why?" and reloading quite a lot just because the dialogue choices sometimes weren't exactly clear. Instead of feeling like I was roleplaying a characters response I often felt like I was playing a guessing game or in some situations, like I was trying to solve a dialogue tree puzzle just to get the response I want.  Something like that could easily put people off from wanting to play a part 2.

Well said.

The quests are intentionally ambiguous, to make them more "serious" and "mature" and sometimes they simply lack a payoff. Because that's realistic and in life things aren't clear cut and all that, therefore players shouldn't expect to necessarily feel good after they complete a quest.

 

Also, in my opinion POE 1 had a very real problem with the writing. It was excessive and it wasn't clear. Probably this made many players bored, causing them to abandon the game without bothering to write a negative review, so that we could put a finger on the issue and proclaim that it was the reason for the POE 2 sales drop.

 

Just yesterday I was playing POE 2, there was this conversation with the gods and at some point, in the middle of the conversation, Skaen said:

"A moon will do the job nicely."

As many times before, I stopped and thought: "what the hell does that mean?". But there was no way to switch to the previous screen to get the (already forgotten) context and so I had no way to decipher the meaning of the phrase. Neither did I want to reload the entire boring conversation. The possible answers given to choose from hinted that this phrase had something to do with destroying the world. They also showed that my character knew much better than me what the phrase meant. For the rest of the conversation I was clicking on "Don't say anything" and I decided to roleplay a character who is fed up with the gods and who doesn't want to deal with them at all.

So I will probably never get to know the meaning of this phrase (unless some kind soul from this forum decides to tell me). This is just a small example to show that POE 2 also has cryptic conversations. The entire conversation would serve as a much better example. It tries to describe a situation and a problem that is so abstract it tends to quickly bore the player and make them switch through the screens quickly.

A real problem is that writers don't seem to realize the players don't know the game universe as well as them and so the writers didn't sufficiently care to present the information clearly and understandably. It wasn't a major concern at all.

The end result is that too much things in both POE 1 and POE 2 lack an emotional impact.

Edited by wih

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